Towards the end of Photokina, I sat down with Stephan Schulz, the global director of Leica's new Business Unit Professional. We talked about what this new professional business unit would mean for customers, product development, the future of the S-System, and more.
Basically, the new business unit is now responsible for S and SL systems, CW Sonderoptic / Leica cine lenses, as well as Sinar digital backs and tech cameras. My impression is that this organizational change is a significant one, not just a name change. The professional division will enjoy some level of autonomy from the rest of the company.
I received quite a few requests while I was in Germany to find out if Leica would be abandoning the S-System, with all the recent focus on the SL. The answer from Schulz was a resounding “no.” Leica is fully committed to supporting and developing both the S and SL systems for the foreseeable future. Of course, when you look at the numbers, the answer seems a bit obvious. The S (Typ 007) was launched just 15 months ago, not a long time for a flagship model. In that time, Leica has issued three major firmware updates for the S007, along with continued firmware revisions for the older S2 and S (Typ 006). The system has ten lenses, none of which require updating, as they are all stellar performers – some of the best medium format lenses available. The S007 has over 15 stops of dynamic range – the most of any still camera, shoots 3.5 fps – the fastest of any MFD camera, is fully weather and dust sealed, and features Wi-Fi, GPS, 4K video, and the best ergonomics available.
The only shortcoming for some users is the resolution of the S. Compared to 50, 60, 80 and 100 MP models from other manufacturers, some find the S007's 37.5 MP somewhat lackluster. Of course, there are reasons that Leica decided to stay at this resolution (check out my article for a full explanation), but they acknowledge that users are demanding a resolution bump. Based on Schulz's comments, I feel that Leica has heard its customers' request and will eventually release an updated body with more resolution. It is far too soon to guess at specs for the next generation S, or to speculate on a release date. Clearly, an update is still a ways off.
Another issue that I addressed was the future of service for professional products. Schulz seemed to indicate that this is also a top priority and is actively working to reduce turnaround times and build up a loaner pool for pro customers. Given the recent delays with repairs, this comes as welcome news.
All-in-all, I get the feeling that S and SL shooters have a lot to look forward to. Check out the video for the full interview,
Question for both of you: are we going to see a stronger Sinar retail presence in North America?
David, should have asked Stephan about the widespread AF mechanism failures on S lenses, and Leica’s lackluster acknowledgment of it thus far. I own 5 S lenses, of which 3 have already failed. Leica fixed them “for free,” except I had to pay outbound postage (and risk theft) and wait 4-12 weeks each time.
Thank you for the excellent interview with Stephan Schulz. I’m pleased to see that Leica will continue to develop the S system. Based on this interview I’m adding another S lens. I’m especially happy to hear that Leica is truly listening to it’s customer base and has created a professional services group. I’m sure many of us are now eager to hear the details – especially for markets outside of Germany.
Leica’s lack of solution to fix the faulty part in S lenses is monumentally diabolical. It’s a very, very, very bad reflection on the company and it is clear they are not interested in their customers, or the future of their company. RIP Leica.
I agree that the focus system failures on S lenses are troubling. Leica is actively working on a permanent fix for the issue. Keep in mind, though, that when a solution is implemented, Leica wants to be sure that the new part(s) will last in the long run. This is why high repetition QC testing is required to verify greater longevity and long-term reliability. And this kind of testing takes time. Clearly, Leica does care about its products and the customers who use them, which is why they are being so fastidious about testing before announcing the permanent solution.
As much as a Leica loyalist as you are, I tend to believe that a Reform Party is going to emerge within the Leica fundamentalist groups. I think Schultz neither knows well enough about medium format, nor he has the authorization to life support the S. Even Dr Kaufmann has no clue about medium format. He is probably still a Canon SureShot shooter by heart (pls forgive my directness) though he made the deal of acquiring Sinar business few years ago. IMHO it’s up for the sake of grabbing Sinar brand, nothing to do with large format, just like why he had purchased into Leica brand in the first place. And forget about Leica board, Leica supervision board, Leica new CEO, Leica engineers, designers, global sales director…Medium/Large Format isn’t in Leica’ blood. It’s not Leica’s DNA. Leica is all about M. And Leica is pretty good in making great SLRs with battle bruises all over.
However, I love Leica not because it’s a perfectionist luxury consumer product company, but due to its everlasting stupidity braveness. I only discovered such a trace in one other company: Apple during Jobs’ time. It is a spirit. A spirit of dare to try the unthinkable innovative new new thing and strive to the absolute and ultimate excellence. The best, or nothing.
The stupidly braveness had created two pivotal moments in Leica’s history…nonono, in camera history: firstly M8, then SL. Without these moments, there is probably no more Leica today, and no full frame today, not mention mirrorless FF. (One other stupidly braveness is MMonochrom, what an awesome piece of true jewel. )
If M8 is the brainchild of M9/M240/M10, then Leica R got to be the fatal brainchild of SL. Thus, the S should be the holy sacrifice for the real Leica medium format, if there will ever be a true and long living Leica medium format.
David, I wonder if you had remembered my email to you asking your view on the S and Phaseone quite a while ago? I finally decided to get Phaseone instead. Incidentally, the day I went to Manhattan for my purchase, I saw X1D announcement. It’s like a death note to Phaseone. Funny enough, or rather fatally, the day I was going to get an X1D through a European dealer, I saw the news that our beloved Hassy was sadly sold to DJI. Another death note! Oh Les Miserables,…Now I have the GFX, though its build is far from that of Leica, Hassy, Phase (Mamiya+Schneider) …it’s very much an XPro vs an M, a substitute.
I wish I had a Leica medium format. But it’s not going to be the S.
Leica got to listen to medium format pros who mostly are not the S fans. Leica medium format should not listen to Schultz or Stefan Daniel…they should listen to the users, listen to the market! Just like they listened, so they got an M10 today!
SL is all because of its self disruptive courage and braveness, it did not kill M but opened a new territory. Leica please do it again with medium format! Let me just call it SS, it should alter its sensor size ratio, it should start at 80MP, it should drop the mirror and stick an EVF!!!
The clock is ticking. Be brave, be fast, Leica, oh my Leica!
P.S. As for Sinar digital, RIP please. Large format was never an industrial product but rather a DIY thing. When MFT sensor price drops further, I will buy a ton of them to glue together as my first 8×10, lol.